Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s Daniel Abt – narrowly beaten to the race win by teammate Lucas di Grassi yesterday – topped the only Free Practice session on the streets of New York on Sunday morning ahead of the season-closing race in the afternoon.
It was a wet session, with the heavens opening shortly before the session begun and forcing the drivers to negotiate a damp track.
This made things particularly difficult for Ma Qing Hua, drafted into the NIO squad after the injury sustained by Oliver Turvey yesterday, as he had to learn the track in tough conditions.
In the early stages, it was DS Virgin Racing’s Alex Lynn who topped the times with a 1:23.053 as the drivers tentatively found the limits of their all-electric vehicles around the slippery streets of the Big Apple.
But as the session wore on, more of a dry line started to emerge and the drivers found more confidence in their vehicles – Felix Rosenqvist lowered the bar with a quickest time of 1:20.873 with 35 minutes to go.
Lynn’s DS Virgin Racing teammate Sam Bird, meanwhile, hit the wall with just over half an hour remaining in the session, damaging the suspension on his car. The British driver was able to nurse his crabbing machine back to the pits however.
Another driver struggling for grip was Dragon Racing’s José María López, with “Pechito” performing a graceful 360 degree turn but being able to continue his lap with no damage done.
With 25 minutes to go in the session, Renault e.dams’ Swiss superstar Sébastien Buemi – yesterday’s polesitter – dipped into the 1:19’s, topping the timesheets with a 1:19.411.
A thrilling few minutes followed as first Andretti’s António Félix da Costa deposed Buemi with a rapid 1:19.165, before Buemi took the top spot back… and moments later da Costa once again retook P1.
However they were both powerless to stop Abt, the 25-year-old flying to the top of the pile with a 1:18.699 with 13 minutes left in the session – a time that would not be beaten.
Abt’s old GP3 title rival, Jaguar’s speedy Kiwi Mitch Evans, got within 0.097s of the German racer, but that was the closest that anyone got to toppling yesterday’s race runner-up.
With just a few minutes left, Rosenqvist put his Mahindra car into the barriers, although he got going again with nose damage.
And as the rain started to come down more heavily again, the times started to slow down and nobody was able to improve their positions in the last five minutes of the session.
This meant Abt topped the times ahead of Evans, with da Costa in third ahead of Buemi and di Grassi. Rounding out the top ten were Sarrazin, Lotterer, new drivers’ champion Vergne, and two drivers who had been in the wall – Rosenqvist and Bird.
Qualifying will take place at 11am local time.
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